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The Latest: DisAstraZeneca, North Korea & Biden, Bond Villain Dies

Moviegoers at the AMC Theater on the first day of reopening for theaters which had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Burbank, California
Moviegoers at the AMC Theater on the first day of reopening for theaters which had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Burbank, California

Welcome to Tuesday, where Europe faces an AstraZeneca panic, North Korea has its first words for Joe Biden and movie theaters reopen in Hollywood. We also explore the world of "biomimicry," where new technologies are created in the image of nature.

• AstraZeneca suspended across Europe: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and other European countries suspend the anti-COVID vaccine after a small handful of reports that AstraZeneca caused blood clots. The WHO, which continues to recommend its use, is scheduled to meet with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) today. Meanwhile, China will issue travel visas to foreigners who get their homegrown vaccine.

• Mozambique insurgency crisis: International aid group Save the Children sounds alarm on humanitarian crisis following reports that children as young as 11 are being beheaded by jihadist insurgency.

• Australia #March4Justice protests: Tens of thousands of people in 47 locations across Australia take to the streets to protest sexual violence and gender discrimination in the workplace.

• New discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls: Israeli archaeologists say they've discovered dozens of new Dead Sea Scroll fragments bearing a biblical text dating nearly 1,900 years ago.

• Bond villain dead: Yaphet Kotto, the actor, best known for his role as the evil Dr. Kananga in the 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die, has died at the age of 81.

• Tinder background checks: The popular dating app has announced plans to offer in-app background checks, beginning in the U.S.

• France to return Nazi era art: After being "sold" by an Austrian Jewish woman more than 80 years ago, France will return a painting by artist Gustav Klimt to his heirs.


Italian daily La Sicilia devotes its front page to the AstraZeneca vaccine chaos in Europe, where more and more countries, including France and Germany, are suspending the use of the jab over blood clot fears.


Biomimicry: learning from nature to create new technology

Can nature save capitalism? Biomimicry is the process by which researchers can calibrate production models to nature, and thus continue to drive economic growth while respecting the environment, writes Eric Le Boucher in Paris-based daily Les Echos.

The silk spun by a spider is 10 times stronger than Kevlar, yet fantastically stretchy. A lotus leaf is designed for rain and dirt to slide off so that photosynthesis can take place. The Morpho butterfly absorbs the sun's rays, and the bear hibernates without losing muscle. These natural wonders so long overlooked by humankind are now being closely observed by a wide range of scientists, engineers, doctors and investors.

The concept of taking inspiration from nature, "bio-inspiration," has been around a while: The inventor of airplanes took inspiration from the wings and aerodynamics of birds. This view of the relationship between science and nature has led to a discipline called "biomimicry," which is paving the way for a unique source of simple and effective progress. Biomimicry will help address the necessities of the 21st century, along with genetics, quantum computing, artificial intelligence and nuclear fusion.

While we are only in the infancy of the discipline, we already know that it has a tremendous future ahead of it. It ultimately can allow us to reconcile technology and ecology. Ecology without technology fails, and technology that does not respect the planet will end up destroying it. We need to adopt this approach "at the crossroads of science, ecology and philosophy," says Alain Renaudin, president of the NewCorp Conseil innovation agency.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


After machete attack, policeman saves own hand by grabbing it

Even with his blood pouring out, Jorge Eduardo Yaso exhibited serious sang-froid.

The Colombian policeman had intervened to break up a brawl earlier this month in San Cristóbal, just south of Bogotá, when his lower right arm and his right hand was severed with a machete. In spite of the "stress' of the situation, Yaso told newscaster Noticias Caracol this past weekend he had the wherewithal to use his left hand to pick up his right hand and take it with him as he was rushed to the Police Central Hospital.

After a nine-hour surgery, he is expected to recover "most" of this arm and hand mobility within a few months. The surgeon, Dr. Hernando Laverde, told Noticias Caracol that the fact that the cut was to his arm, rather than a wrist with multiple nerves, helped facilitate the successful surgery.

Yazo added that the machete hand was cut off as he raised his arms to protect himself when a man attacked him with a machete. Bogotá police (with all hands on deck) are seeking information to lead to the capture of the culprit.

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com

-2.5 meters

Our cities are sinking! A study from the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain found that more than 200 regions in 34 countries around the world are threatened by dangerous ground "subsidence," or sinking, partly because too much pumping out of groundwater creates cavities underground. The northern part of Bandung has sunk 2.5 meters in the past 10 years (25 cm each year), forcing large parts of the Indonesian city to relocate in the coming years.

If the United States wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.

— Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim-Jong un, was quoted with a not-so-subtle threat in the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper directed at the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden. It was Pyongyang's first official remark since Biden was sworn in, and follows the recent announcement that the U.S. would go forward with joint military exercises with South Korea.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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